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It is one thing to read about the Holocaust, about the banality of evil, about the ordinary Germans who turned on their neighbors, about our own internment of Japanese citizens, about lynchings in our South, about many horrible things that people have done to people in fights over territory, principles, and even in the name of religion.  It is entirely another to have it brought home that those thoughts are here today, in ordinary people, friends, neighbors.

Last fall, I quoted on Facebook

We still have a choice today: nonviolent coexistence, or violent co-annihilation. We must move past indecision to action. If we do not act, we shall surely be dragged down the long, dark, and shameful corridors of time reserved for those who possess power without compassion, might without morality, and strength without sight.

Martin Luther King Jr. delivered 4 April 1967, Riverside Church, New York City

I was taken aback at one response, from a vocally Christian friend:

Get the radical Islamist, Russia, the Taliban and the Sunnis to agree and I am all for that.  Oh…I forgot to mention the Chinese, the Serbs and the others who want to kill us….

And then, late last night after a weekend church workshop and a wonderful evening service, I found this Facebook comment on someone else’s post in my mailbox, from a retired teacher, friend of a Facebook friend:

Our government is out of control !! Look at how they have imprisoned 4 United States Marines for pissing on the bodies of those traitors/terrorists !!! I find our soldiers’ message appropriate and true from our hearts !! It is against the Geneva Convention ?? Obama and Hilary take exception and APOLOGIZE for insulting those fork-tongued ,treacherous devil-worshippers ?? WTF !! How about those heathens’ practice of beheading our soldiers and dragging their bodies through the streets —I guess that is okay and not that big a deal—they are just Americans.

These are the most extreme of what I have heard lately, but almost every day someone says, with vehemence or, more distressing, casually, something that judges some individual or a whole group of people as Other, irretrievably different, lesser, immoral, evil, to be scorned or annihilated, violently or slowly through neglect or abuse.  I belong to a denomination whose first principle is “the inherent worth and dignity of every human being.” My daily meditation is the Metta  Sutra. But working on my own compassion for all seems like not nearly enough.  It feels as if we are going down yet another dark and shameful maze of twisty little passages, all alike. How can I, how can even we, heal the hurt, the anger, the fear, the mistrust?

Don't ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive. - Howard Thurman.

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